I wrote Softly Say Goodbye as a message about what can happen when teens abuse alcohol. My hopes were this book would open eyes, and bring people to the realization teen drinking is a problem we need to address at all levels. I knew about accidents involving underage drivers who were intoxicated, but while searching for information on this subject recently, I ran across a website that completely changed my perspective.
Mariah Day McCarthy was fourteen, a freshman at Butte High School. She was a normal teen, and a great friend. On October 27, 2007, she and two friends were walking along a road when an underage drunk hit them. Mariah's friends survived, but she died. Instead of being another statistic of teen drinking, Mariah has become a symbol of the determination to stop this problem.
Her father, Leo McCarthy, showed enormous courage on the day of her funeral when he issued a challenge to Butte's youth.
• If you are under 21, do not drink and never get in a car with someone who has been drinking.
• If you are over 21, do not drink and drive, and be a good role model for our children.
• If you sell alcohol, check IDs, train your employees to obey the law, and keep alcohol out of the hands of our children.
• If you're part of our justice system, enforce our laws and keep our children safe.
Mariah's Challenge now has thousands of people accepting the challenge and donating money to the scholarship fund. Communities in Montana, Idaho, Iowa, North Carolina, Washington, and Wyoming have accepted this challenge. Teens live by the challenge. One beautiful angel has brought together people as nothing else has.
Today, I'm proud to host Leo McCarthy, Mariah's dad, on Out of Control Characters.
1. Tell us something about yourself:
I am a life long resident of Butte, MT. The youngest of 11. Married to Janice and have one daughter, Jenna finishing college and one daughter in Heaven.
2. Can you explain how you went from grieving parent to a man determined to make a difference in your community?
I wanted to make a difference. I had no good or calming advice to the many grieving friends of Mariah. Their innocence was stolen as was our town’s and wanted to change a culture by one youth through one generation at a time.
3. When you issued your challenge to Butte's youth, Montana routinely ranked in the top five per capita for drunk driving fatalities. Has your program made a difference?
Yes. DUI’s are down due personal responsibility and the pride of this town trying to be better. The physical evidence is the many cold cars in the parking lots bars on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
4. How far will you go expanding Mariah's Challenge? Is this a program you see growing to include all high schools and colleges in the United States, or even beyond our borders?
My plans are to expand in Montana as well in the USA. It is the narrative response to youth’s needs for another tool to say yes to a better way of life.
5. How can people contact you if they're interested in bringing Mariah's Challenge to their community or donating money?
Our website, Mariah's Challenge has links for both types of inquiry.
6. To date, how successful has Mariah's Challenge been in reducing underage drinking?
It is becoming a tool to use at the dinner table to discuss what is going on in the youth’s world. It is a way of communicating in a way that has no beginning or end about the cycle teenage rite of passage of drinking.
7. You participate in a program that boots the vehicles of repeat DUI offenders. Do you see this as an extension of your foundation?
No, my family donated the boots along with others. It is a way to keep the drunks out of the cars if we can’t stop them before they get in.
8. On December 2, 2012, you were honored as one of CNN's Top Ten Heroes of 2012. Has this helped your foundation in terms of increased donations?
Yes, donations have increased mathematically but out movement has increase geometrically. It is a fear of all parents to bury their children. It is a comfort to all parents when they know their children have a plan when confronted with the trials and tribulations drinking an driving.
9. Is there anything else you would like to add?
My wish is all youth to grow old. To believe in themselves they are greater than the situation, always. Youth are are rarest and most valuable natural esource.